Category: Strategy – Vision


Posted on / by colin / in Article - Vision, Leadership, Purpose, Strategy - Vision, Transformation

Is the CEO’s most important job to have a vision?

By Kim Goodhart

“You only get there because you’ve defined your destination… A lot of companies don’t define a very clear destination. If I look at some of the case studies of companies that have failed they’re often enjoying driving the car but they didn’t know where they were going.” – Marc England, CEO Genesis Energy

Leaders need to have a vision, a vision beyond what their people, their customers, their share-holders and perhaps even their board might be able to see. This, is their role – to be able to see a future potential that they have the capability to create because, without it, what else is there to motivate their people?

“Any incoming CEO has got to have a vision,” says Marc in my series of up-close-and-personal-chats with New Zealand’s leading visionary CEOs <watch it here>. “If you don’t have a vision, you’re not going to get there.”

In my opinion, the team’s role is to make the vision a reality, but it is the CEOs job to have the vision.

Marc has a vision for the future. It is: “To change the way that consumers engage with energy”.

Without vision CEO’s, organisations and the people who work in them can do what they’ve always done, but they’re not going anywhere and they will neither succeed, nor survive the changes that are coming.

“There are very few industries now that are not in some form of change mode because the world is moving faster,” says Marc. “If I look at different industries around the world this is the one (energy) that I think is going to change the most.

“All we’ve done for decades is generate electrons, source gas, bill customers and collect their cash and that’s been going on for over one hundred years and no one’s really changed that. So, we’ve got this huge opportunity. Technology is changing that. It’s enabling the change, consumers are demanding more as well.”

There’s two dimensions to what ‘there’ is, says Marc.

“One is what the consumers are demanding. The other is what we need to do to in order to develop and protect our energy future. Consumers are demanding more digitisation, more digital interactions; they want to tap things on their phone as opposed to receive a paper bill… but then there’s a bunch of needs that I think consumers don’t yet know they need, and I have a lot of people saying if customers don’t want it, why would you do it?

“It’s amazing how, if you put something in front of a consumer and test it, they suddenly realise it’s something better than they thought.”

Marc isn’t just looking at what his customers are asking for, he is looking ahead into a future that the rest of us cannot yet see and asking what do my customers and people want, and need, in the future and why? What does the planet need? It’s not just about a customer experience, it’s about the whole future of energy.

“If we can’t engage consumers in energy, and all they want it to do is turn their lights on and pay their bill then I think there are some longer-term risks for our industry as other brands and industries start to percolate into our space and they are very good at engaging consumers,” says Marc. “The desire to be with Genesis is an important thing we are trying to create here.”

In the Stephen King novella, The Langoliers, people and objects stuck in yesterday get consumed by strange creatures called The Langoliers – creatures that feed on time that has passed. Ten aircraft passengers, who find themselves stuck in ‘yesterday’, have to escape into the future to survive. But they need a pilot to take them there.

It’s a nice metaphor, don’t you think?

Posted on / by colin / in Article - Vision, Leadership, Strategy - Vision, Transformation

Win or learn – do all great leaders reframe their fear?

By Kim Goodhart

When Elon Musk sold PayPal to eBay, he could have taken his co-founders cut – PayPal sold for $1.5 billion – and retired a billionaire. Instead, he took a huge risk and invested the money in founding private space exploration company, SpaceX, of all things, and Tesla (all electric vehicles). Both ventures nearly bankrupted him – from billionaire to pauper – but in the end he won out. Both companies now carry significant value and Musk’s fame is assured.

It can manifest as a cold sweat, weakness in the legs and nausea; or ‘just’ a grim feeling in the pit of your stomach. Your response may be to freeze, to run or to fight, and it takes some serious cognitive muscle to override any of those neurobiological impulses.

In a business scenario, fear or risks may result in uncertainty, paralysis in decision making, anxiety – any number of physiological responses that make it hard to flex that cognitive muscle because our decision making becomes impaired.

In my up-close-and-personal chat with Marc England, CEO Genesis Energy <watch it here> he says, “I think that (fear) holds a lot of people back. There is a fear that if you get something wrong there might be a consequence.

“I have a reasonably high personal appetite for personal risk. I’ve never worried in my career about losing my job, I’ve never made a decision to be conservative in case I got it wrong,” says Marc.

What Marc is doing is reframing his fear.

“People’s safety, and harm to people, is not a good failure so you cannot take those risks. But putting a new product into market… if it fails, has limited consequences other than personal reputation,” says Marc.

Where one person may see a huge threat in launching a product that may fail, Marc see it as ‘only’ his reputation that would be damaged, which to him – in perspective – is nothing too serious.

Like Marc, great leaders learn to put context to the risks around them. They overcome the fears that hold others back by putting them into perspective.

“I think sometimes people can misinterpret what a good risk or a bad risk, a good failure or a bad failure might be, and can then be risk adverse in what actually isn’t the end of the world if it doesn’t work perfectly.”

Reframing and putting things in perspective is an important distinction that great leaders share, because it allows them to move more freely. Where fear may hold one person back from doing something new (or potentially risky), great leaders can reframe the situation and move forwards – taking them to new heights of success.

As CEO of Southern Cross Health Society Nick Astwick says in an earlier interview, “I learned not to associate myself too closely with my successes and failures”.

The world is changing. And it will be those who can manage their fear, who take smart risks, that will be best suited to lead us into the future.

As Nick Astwick says, “There’s a lot of risks and threats in that, but there is also a lot of opportunity”.

Leaders who reframe the risks and threats in the world in order to be able to see the opportunities in front of them have the power to create real change that will benefit all those around them.

Photo by: Jeremy Bishop

@tentides
Posted on / by colin / in Article - Vision, Strategy - Vision, Transformation

The power of vulnerability

Up-close-and-personal chats with New Zealand’s leading visionary CEOs

By Kim Goodhart

The world is moving at a faster pace, forcing the disruption of industries and the future is unclear. CEOs have the unenviable job of leading their organisations into the unknown and face the inevitable challenge of having to learn as they go. Since failure is an inevitable part of learning, how do they cope with the fear of failure?

No child would learn to ride a skateboard if the fear of crashing into the sidewalk outweighed the vision of flying along the sidewalk. Children have an enviable ability to dream. To create a clear vision of what they want to achieve. To lead their people into the unknown CEOs must lock on to the vision of flying along the sidewalk to overcome the fear of crashing.

As such, the courage to fail is now a critical virtue of leadership. In the words of Robert F. Kennedy, “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly”.

In the first of a series of one-on-one close-up interviews that Real TV is doing with New Zealand’s leading CEOs, I talk to Southern Cross Health Society CEO Nick Astwick about the courage to fail and the benefits of this virtue.

As Nick says in the interview <watch it here>, failures taught him to not associate who he was too much with either his successes or his failures. He also learned to surround himself with black hat thinkers who would question him along the way.

Nick says that failures, while painful, gave him the self-awareness and resilience to lead. I believe that leaders like Nick not only accept their failures – they learn that their failures have made them stronger leaders and as such they embrace failure with a positivity that gives them the courage to be vulnerable in the face of fear.

It is this vulnerability that gives them the strength to lead their people into the unknown. Perhaps it is this vulnerability that also allows them to see the vision for what they want to achieve (is it the fear of failure that prevents so many people from knowing what they dream of?).

You could say that leaders are *anti-fragile. They are strengthened by the things that have gone wrong in their lives. Great leaders take the knocks in life and grow from them. This is what makes them stronger and gives them the humility to lead and ultimately to succeed. Without leaders who dream of how things can be, life would continue as it always has. It takes courage to lead people into the unknown and this is the power of vulnerability.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

– Winston Churchill

*anti-fragile: the term comes from the book, ‘Things That Gain From Disorder’ by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

Posted on / by colin / in Article - Vision, Strategy - Vision, Transformation

What makes leaders unique?

Up-close-and-personal chats with New Zealand’s leading visionary CEOs

By Kim Goodhart

“I believe in what I do. Work is not a job; it is a vehicle in which I can contribute to New Zealand and that’s the way I feel it. Life is short. Give it a bash. It’s a philosophy. I have a deep belief that business is about advancing society for the good.” – Southern Cross Health Society CEO Nick Astwick

Is this the kind of thinking that sets great leaders apart from other people?

In the first of a series of Real TV one-on-one interviews with New Zealand’s leading CEOs, I talk to Southern Cross Health Society CEO Nick Astwick who sees a big part of his role as making sure New Zealand is a productive nation. You can watch it here.

“In the long term it would be lovely for my grandchildren to want to carve their career in NZ. We need large organisations and opportunities for kids in NZ to make it.”

Something that is beginning to emerge in my thinking as I do more of these interviews, is that the leaders who will have the best impact on our society have an ability to see what is now, and what could be. They see a clearly articulated vision for the future and they want to create it for us. They then have to communicate that vision to others – and when others understand that vision, they want to join them.

Nick puts it well when he says, “I think one of the biggest roles we have as leaders is to get people brought into the vision”.

Articulate the future and drive towards it

The skill of a leader is to clearly articulate the future. The power of the vision comes when everyone believes in the vision.

“As a leader you have to get your people to buy into the vision and this happens through thousands of conversations,” says Nick.

‘Normal’ people, I am sure, don’t think like this. We’re often told that leaders can be made, however, I’m not convinced this is a learned trait. I believe this is something some leaders are born with, which sets them apart and gives them the hardwiring to lead people into the unknown. The power of these leaders comes from the vision. Their ability to see possibility where others might not, and to connect others to that vision.

“Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.”

– Jack Welch, Former Chairman, General Electric

Posted on / by colin / in Article - Vision, Kim, Purpose, Strategy - Vision, Transformation

Why do you have to be true to yourself to lead?

Up-close-and-personal chats with New Zealand’s leading visionary CEOs

By Kim Goodhart

In the lead up to the 1995 Rugby World Cup, Nelson Mandela (the story goes) had to face down a room full of his peers, colleagues and followers – all of whom are in a meeting specifically to cull the Springbok emblem.

He was a lone voice, but he stood his ground. He had a vision for national unity and would not be swayed despite the cacophony around him. The Springbok emblem united the country in the 1995 Rugby World Cup and remains to this day.

In the first of a series of one-on-one close-up interviews that Real TV is doing with New Zealand’s leading CEOs, I talk to Southern Cross Health Society CEO Nick Astwick to find out about authentic Leadership. Nick makes the point that a good CEO or leader is true to him/herself.

Nelson Mandela remained resolute in the face of dissent that conflicted with his vision, but for many CEOs it isn’t much different.

Today’s CEO must manage the demands and expectations of customers, shareholders, board members and their people – all of whom are wildly different. Clearly, to succeed, a CEO must be confident that his or her vision is the right one and that confidence, I think, comes to CEOs who know themselves well enough to find the right organisation to lead – one that aligns with who they are.

The value of authenticity

Nick is clear that a CEO must be authentic. Don’t try and be someone you’re not for the role. You will only be successful in leadership if you are genuinely truthful to who you are. If you try to be somebody you’re not, then you will be caught out very quickly.

Nick says it wasn’t until he knew why he wanted to be a CEO, and what type of CEO he would be, that he found a fit with an organisation and a strategy that he could be true to himself. Only then did he become a CEO.

In fact, in the video <watch it here> he tells us how he failed to get the top job when he was trying to be something that his potential employers wanted, rather than who he was.

I believe it is the inner clarity that comes from knowing yourself and knowing what you believe that allows great leaders to make the seemingly impossible possible.

In the movie Invictus – which tells the South African version of events leading up to the 1995 Rugby World Cup – there’s a scene where black children rush with joy to play with white rugby players. One rugby player says to another, “Did you ever imagine this?” To which his team mate replies, “How could I?”

Most people will never see what can be possible until it happens.

And while it may seem extreme to suggest that our CEOs and leaders need the level of conviction that Nelson Mandela showed. I believe our best leaders have the same authentic passion for the vision they are leading. It is this that is driving the changes within their organisations and it is this that inspires their people, customers, shareholders and board members.

When all these people start to see the vision become a reality they too ask, “Did you ever imagine this?” Leaders that are true to themselves and have vision can make the seemingly impossible possible and that is why I believe we need them.

“May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.”

– Nelson Mandela

Photo by:  Quino Al

Posted on / by colin / in Article - Vision, Kim, Purpose, Strategy - Vision, Transformation

Sexual harassment in the workplace needs a tick, not a big stick

As momentum from the global #MeToo movement reaches New Zealand shores – signalled by recent allegations of a culture of sexual harassment in the legal sector – it may be time for this country to introduce the gender equality equivalent of the gay community’s Rainbow Tick.

Incentives always work very well, and a ‘gender equality tick’ programme may be a compelling incentive to drive the change in culture we need to achieve real behaviour change.

Rules and disciplinary processes are necessary to protect people, but as a tool for enduring cultural change within an organisation, they are unlikely to be enough. The drawback of the disciplinary process – while necessary – is that people are too afraid to speak up because they think of the social cost to themselves or they are afraid that it might destroy their careers.

Far more impactful than just punishing the bad behaviour would be a vision and celebration of mutual respect and equality within the workplace – something people can aspire towards, together with the tools and education to achieve it.

In my experience – in working with companies to achieve behaviour change through communication – where undesirable behaviour exists, it is often so ingrained in the culture that most people are oblivious to it or they have accepted it has the norm.

Time after time I’ve seen how it is rewards-based systems that achieve better transformation. The equivalent of a Rainbow Tick will be a greater motivation for change. The tick, combined with education – and a few simple measures that people can take to improve their company culture – could rapidly change the current situation.

A ‘gender equality tick’ system would help both prospective employees, and customers, make informed decisions about whether or not they want to do business with an organisation – itself a strong incentive to drive real transformation in the workplace.

Consumer choice drives business decision making. When the consumer has a choice between two equally good products or services, they may be more inclined to choose a company that is socially responsible. So, when all the information is out in the open, then companies are motivated to do the right thing.

Both men and women need to feel safe in the workplace. Processes and workplace regulations are important but change needs to happen because people want it to happen and they’re ready for it.

The Rainbow Tick (http://www.rainbowtick.co.nz/whats-rainbow-tick/) is a certification mark awarded to organisations that complete a Diversity and Inclusion certification process regarding whether or not workplaces understand, value and welcome sexual and gender diversity.

I believe the Rainbow Tick works because it allows organisations to celebrate their diversity and inclusion. It allows them to tell the public that they’ve got it right, and it delivers both education and achievable steps for organisations to follow so that they can get it right – it moves beyond blame to solving, which can only be good for everyone.

If an organisation has a vision and enrols its staff in that vision, change will follow. Enforcement in the workplace can only treat the symptoms, but culture change is far more valuable.

Posted on / by colin / in Article - Vision, Kim, Purpose, Strategy - Vision, Transformation

#MeToo – How culture control can help CEOs achieve gender equality

In horticulture there is a term called ‘culture control’ that involves using various techniques, like crop rotation, to change the environment into one that is undesirable for pests and diseases – it’s also a made-to-fit analogy for how an organisation can become a place that is undesirable for sexism and misogyny.

By putting in place a series of measures – like New Zealand’s pest quarantine system, using resistant plant varieties, ensuring soils are well drained and tools are kept clean – horticulturalists create an environment where plant diseases and pests find it difficult to get a footing.

Horticulture calls the practise ‘culture control’, but it’s an apt term to apply in the workplace too. By implementing ‘culture control measures’ in the workplace, we can create an environment in which it is difficult for sexism, misogyny and *‘himpathy’ (the tendency to sympathise with men accused of sexual harassment and assault) to take root.

By implementing a series of ‘culture control’ measures in an organisation, chief executive officers and senior management can help shift to a place where gender equality and diversity flourish – a place where each person is valued and rewarded for who they are and their contribution, rather than by gender or race.

Importantly, the CEO will be creating an environment that is not conducive to sexism and its darker counterpart, misogyny; thereby achieving lasting change.

What are some of the ‘culture control’ measures that organisation’s might consider?

  1. Workplace sexism prevention

A culture of sexism or even ‘himpathy’ encourages the growth of misogyny. Weed out sexism, and misogyny will struggle to take root.

Like workplace health and safety – or accident prevention – management could look to run an education programme about why gender equality is important for everybody and how to spot bad habits, sexist behaviour and language (including in the individual personally).

This can then be supported with real tools for eliminating sexist language and behaviour, even within ourselves, as well as processes for dealing with issues as they arise.

  1. Storytelling

To achieve real change, there needs to be an emotional shift.

Sharing video stories about women and some of their challenges, for example, will tap into people’s emotions and achieve meaningful change in attitudes and levels of empathy towards women e.g. put yourself in a woman’s shoes.

  1. Outlets

In horticulture, ventilation is an important aide in temperature control which, in turn, is used to discourage the growth of, for example, mould.

The equivalent action may be putting in sympathetic processes and structures for women who need support, as well as disciplinary processes to deal to sexual harassment and misogyny and also some way or forum for women to share (and therefore educate), on things that are not acceptable (this applies to all women, not just a handful from the HR team – it needs to be companywide).

Only be creating an environment that celebrates equality and diversity can we begin to realise the true potential of an organisation.

*Himpathy, a term coined by Cornell University Philosophy Professor Kate Manne to mean making excuses, sympathy, forgiveness and or exonerating sexist or misogynistic behaviour i.e. “it was a different era back then” is himpathy.

 

Posted on / by colin / in Article - Vision, Kim, Purpose, Strategy - Vision, Transformation

Team unity strips fear of its power

Part 3: Business lessons from Mount Cook

By Kim Goodhart

Little did I know (that’s me, the weakest link in our team) that the Mount Cook Range trail – a demanding 3 day alpine trek through the Ball Pass Crossing, would test us all, even the strongest in unexpected ways and only unity would pull us through.

After the glacier we had to climb up an exposed section of rock. Steve is incredibly strong and fit and leaves me for dust in every physical activity, but he hates extreme exposure and heights.

It is the only place where our roles get reversed. For a brief moment I’m able to be the person that supports him and it feels good. I’m not afraid of heights if I’m climbing because rightly or wrongly I feel that I am in control. I also knew that without a shadow of doubt that I could trust my team with the rope and that should I fall they would have me.

But that’s’ the funny thing about fear. It isn’t rational. What terrifies one person is simple to another. We all have our fears and they hold us back. Each and every person needs help – no matter how strong they are – when they encounter their fear.

Most people will do everything to avoid fear, but the really courageous go in there anyway. The best teams are the ones that know and understand each other’s fears and support each other through to the end. This is the beauty of a team over an individual. Strengths and fears blend together to make the team stronger.

But even though I know all this it was an eye opening experience for me to see the team move to reassure Steve and help him through the extreme heights. No one tried to urge him to go faster. No one was concerned. It was simply about making sure we all supported each other through every section. It’s a group effort and, when the team come together to support each other, they actually reach the goal faster and enjoy the journey.

Lessons from a slippery slope

On day 3 it was the loose rocks and scree slopes that got the other two team members.

Perhaps my naivety kept me from fear, but they knew all too well that we were surrounded by loose rocks. Any one of which could fall down the slopes at any moment and that we would have to move quickly if it did.

What I learned is that when a team is united with a common objective to reach a specific end goal, then everyone has to take into account the various team members and we have to help everyone get to the end.

To achieve this means listening to each other’s fears and anxieties, taking the time to understand them and give them what they need to get though. It takes knowing each other’s strengths and being able to rely on the stronger people – in that moment – to support you.

Looking back over the three days (see blog parts 1 and 2) I was happy on the exposed cliffs and crossing the glacial crevasses because I could trust my team. I knew that they would do whatever it took to keep each of us safe along the way. All  I had to do was play my role and keep putting one foot in front of the other to maintain the pace that our guide set.

And the result was that we achieved each section of the pass in record times. Our guide referred to our group as honed athletes. It is not something I’ve ever been described as but, thanks to the support of my amazing team, they brought me up to their level and this for me is what teams should be about.

What did I learn from the 3 day crossing?

* Choose your group carefully. You will only be as strong as the weakest link.

* Know your goal.  We all knew exactly what we’d set out to achieve and were committed to it.

* Know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. You need to be open enough to let each other in and rely on each other for support. Openness about your strengths and weaknesses builds trust – it is the power of vulnerability.

Do all that, and not only will you achieve what you set out to achieve, you will do it faster and more efficiently then you ever thought possible.

 

 

Posted on / by colin / in Article - Vision, Kim, Purpose, Strategy - Vision

On thin ice – discovering the power of vulnerability

Part 2: Business lessons from Mount Cook

By Kim Goodhart

It was day two of the trail across the Mount Cook Range – a demanding 3 day alpine trek through the Ball Pass Crossing – and the icy glacier beckoned.

I was helped into a pair of crampons, attached to a rope and given an ice axe. I’m still not entirely sure what I would have done with my ice axe but, in theory, had I found myself sliding down the ice my job was to slam my full body weight onto the axe and into the ice so that I could stop myself. I think to be honest it was at that point that I knew my life was in the hands of my group.

It’s a humbling feeling to know that you are now dependent on everyone around you –  acknowledge that you don’t have the skills to save yourself.

I also didn’t have the skills to save anyone else should something go wrong. The only thing I could do was sit. And, fortunately, that was all I was instructed to do.

If one of the group fell into a crevasse, I was told to immediately sit down and dig my crampons into the ground so the other 4 of us would hold the poor person who fell into the crevasse while our guide would pull them out to safety.

I was desperately hoping that that person would not be me, but the reality is that my falling into a crevasse would be best case scenario because the others were better equipped to pull me out than I was them – I realised, with mixed feelings, that I was not only the safest person in my group, but that my greatest risk was myself.

The only real thing I could see going wrong was the danger of me impaling myself with my ice axe in a fall. Other than that I was totally safe. If I fell my team would easily pull me out.

This was a foreign sensation for me.

I’m someone who generally feels pretty capable. I know how to look after myself. I’m pretty resilient and more often than not I think I tend to look after the people around me. However here on the glacier, I had to acknowledge a different position.

I had to put all my faith in everyone around me. I had to believe that if something went wrong, they would save me. If there was a real risk when would I be left behind? If this was a business team in what situation would I be dumped from the group? Was my position as the weakest link a real risk?

But the difference between a business team and the team crossing a mountain is that losing someone isn’t an option. No one was going to leave me there. We’d picked our team and now we were in this through thick and thin. No one gets left behind. At any point the group dynamic can change and a new person could become the weakest link. We all know that.

In life the unexpected might be a chronic illness, a divorce or a new baby. All of which may change the dynamic of your team, reducing someone else to the role of the weakest link. Do the team drop them? Or do they support them? Do they surround them to make sure they feel safe in their vulnerability, knowing that they will bring other strengths to the table at a later time? How often do we drop people for not being at the top all the time and how much do we lose as a result?

How satisfying is it to make it to the end knowing you left people behind along the way? What kind of a person would that make you? Isn’t the real goal to all make it to the end?

Business moral: I would argue that the strength of our team came from the loyalty and patience of each of us to the others. I was faster crossing the terrain than I otherwise would have been because I knew I could trust those around me. I could be open about my fears, and know that I wasn’t being judged. This brought out a strength in me – the power of vulnerability – to go further and faster than I ever would have believed possible.

 

Posted on / by colin / in Article - Vision, Kim, Strategy - Vision, Transformation

A common goal strengthens even the weakest link

Part 1: Business lessons from Mount Cook

By Kim Goodhart

Remember the anxiety you felt when you were a kid and you were the last person picked for the sports team?

It’s never a nice feeling to know that you’re the weakest link on the team, but on a recent mountaineering trip across the Mount Cook Range – a demanding three day alpine trek through the Ball Pass Crossing – that’s the position I found myself in.

I’d committed to doing the crossing with my fiancé Steve – an accomplished athlete – his best mate Brian (a serious mountain biker) and Sasha, Brian’s wife and long distance trail runner. So, with our guide, Jono I found myself in the 5th position as the least fit, least experienced and totally naïve addition to the team – I had never even climbed a mountain!

To say I was anxious about the expedition would be an understatement. But Steve reassured me that I was fit enough to cope with the trip and that he would be there to support me. My team were also very quick to put me at ease. Steve had told them I would be fine and they trusted his judgement.

You can’t get there on your own

My team acknowledged my anxiety but they told me this wasn’t about any of us being the weakest link. That when it comes to trips like these, at any moment any one of them could become the weakest link. All it takes is bad luck – a slip can lead to a sprained ankle, a falling rock could hit someone on the head or an exposed rock face could trigger a moment of anxiety. Any of these will change the group dynamic in a second. Out in the wilderness that is the reality.

The goal is not for one person to make it in the fastest time, but for the team to make it to the end. To achieve that, the group must move as one – supporting and encouraging each other along the way – if we were going to successfully complete the three days of hiking, climbing and sometimes sliding through the Mount Cook National Park.

Day 1: Up the mountain

The first day was a steady uphill climb in the rain. I was quick to realise that the guide was asking me questions along the route to check to see if I could still talk. This is a simple way to test how well you are coping and he was setting the pace at my limits.

This made me a little anxious as I was concerned that the others wanted to go faster and that I was holding them back. It was fascinating for me to learn that holding other people back creates some anxiety for me but Steve supported me the whole way. He kept reassuring me that I was doing a great job and that I didn’t need to go any faster. That everyone was happy to go at my pace.

The truth was I couldn’t have gone any faster even if I’d wanted to. It was simply beyond my capabilities and so I had to let go and just do what I could. Every time the guide paused I knew I needed the moment to collect my breath before I could continue on to the next section.

My strength I’ve discovered is perseverance.

I don’t give up easily and while I may not have been able to move as quickly as the others, I can dig pretty deep, stay cheerful and keep moving forwards. But it was still a surprise to me that we made it to the top far faster than our guide anticipated. It turns out that just maintaining a steady pace actually gets you to the top pretty quickly.

As our guide said, it’s the breaks that slow you down. It’s a great reminder in business that it’s not about racing to the end. Moving too quickly can actually slow you down. It can lead to fatigue. It can lead to accidents and it can lead to mistakes all of which delay progress.

Business moral: If you want to get your team to the finish line in the fastest time, you need to set a pace that works for the whole group and that means setting the pace at a speed that everyone can maintain.

At the top we were welcomed with the first avalanche I’ve ever seen.

Standing on the edge of the peek by the Caroline Hut, with Mount Cook peering out at us between the clouds, the snow and rocks suddenly set themselves free. The load roar as they bounded and bounced down the edge of the mountain was something to behold.

The four of us watched in awe, silenced by the sheer impact and power of nature.  It served as a reminder of how small we are as individuals on this planet and how beautiful the world around us really is. If it hadn’t been for that climb I would never have experienced anything like it. This was our reward.